What is Inclusive Democracy?


Richard Moore


Here's a journal with a vision of democracy similar to the one 
proposed in my new book.



What is Inclusive Democracy? 

The contours of Inclusive Democracy

Inclusive   democracy is a new conception of democracy, which,
using as a starting point   the classical definition of it,
expresses democracy in terms of direct   political democracy,
economic democracy (beyond the confines of the market  
economy and state planning), as well as democracy in the
social realm and   ecological democracy. In short ,inclusive
democracy is a form of social organisation which re-integrates
  society with economy, polity and nature. The concept of
inclusive democracy is   derived from a synthesis of two major
historical traditions, the classical   democratic and the
socialist, although it also encompasses radical green,  
feminist, and liberation movements in the South. Within the
problematique of   the inclusive democracy project, it is
assumed that the world, at the   beginning of the new
millennium, faces a multi-dimensional crisis (economic,  
ecological, social, cultural and political) which is caused by
the   concentration of power in the hands of various elites,
as a result of the   establishment, in the last few centuries,
of the system of market economy,   representative democracy
and the related forms of hierarchical structure. In   this
sense, an inclusive democracy, which involves the equal
distribution of   power at all levels, is seen not as a utopia
(in the negative sense of the   word) but as perhaps the only
way out of the present crisis.

The conception of inclusive   democracy

A fruitful way to define inclusive democracy may be to
distinguish between the   two main societal realms, the public
and the private, to which we may add an   "ecological realm",
defined as the sphere of the relations between   the natural
and the social worlds. In this conception, the public realm,  
contrary to the practice of many supporters of the republican
or democratic   project (Hannah Arendt, Cornelius Castoriadis
, Murray Bookchin et al) includes not   just the political
realm, but also the economic realm as well as a   'social'
realm; in other words, any area of human activity in which  
decisions can be taken collectively and democratically. The
political realm is   defined as the sphere of   political
decision-taking, the area in which political power is
exercised. The   economic realm is defined as the sphere of
economic decision-taking, the area   in which economic power
is exercised with respect to the broad economic   choices that
any scarcity society has to make. Finally, the social realm is
  defined as the sphere of decision-taking in the workplace,
the education place and any other economic or cultural  
institution which is a constituent element of a democratic

It is therefore obvious that the extension of the traditional
public realm to   include the economic, ecological and  
'social' realms is an indispensable element of an inclusive
democracy.   Correspondingly, we may distinguish between four
main constituent elements of   an inclusive democracy: the
political, the economic, 'democracy in the social   realm' and
the ecological. The first three elements constitute the  
institutional framework which aims at the equal distribution
of (respectively)   political, economic and social power; in
other words, the system which aims at the   effective
elimination of the domination of human being over human being.
  Similarly, ecological democracy is defined as the
institutional framework   which aims at the elimination of any
human attempt to dominate the natural   world, in other words,
the system which aims to reintegrate humans and nature.

Political or direct democracy

In the political realm there can only be one form of
democracy: what we may   call political or direct democracy,
in which political power is shared equally   among all
citizens. Political democracy is, therefore, founded on the
equal   distribution of political power among all citizens,
the self-instituting of   society. This means that the
following conditions have to be satisfied for a   society to
be characterised as a political democracy:

1.  that democracy is grounded on the conscious choice of
its citizens for   individual and social autonomy and not on
any divine or mystical dogmas and   preconceptions, or any
closed theoretical systems involving natural or   economic
'laws', or tendencies determining social change.

2.  that there are no institutionalised political
processes of an   oligarchic nature. This implies that all
political decisions (including those   relating to the
formation and execution of laws) are taken by the citizen body
  collectively and without representation;

3.  that there are no institutionalised political
structures embodying unequal power relations. This means, for
instance, that where   authority is delegated to segments of
the citizen body for the purpose of   carrying out specific
duties (e.g., serving in popular courts, or regional and
confederal councils, etc.), the delegation is assigned, on  
principle, by lot and on a rotational basis, and it is always
recallable by   the citizen body. Furthermore, as regards
delegates to regional and confederal   bodies, the mandates
should be specific.

4.  that all residents of a particular geographical area
(which today can only take the form of a geographical
community),   beyond a certain age of maturity (to be defined
by the citizen body itself)   and irrespective of gender,
race, ethnic or cultural identity, are members of   the
citizen body and are directly involved in the decision-taking

However, the institutionalisation of direct democracy in terms
of the above   conditions is only the necessary condition for
the establishment of democracy.   The sufficient condition
refers to the citizens' level of democratic   consciousness,
in which a crucial   role is played by paedeia --involving
not simply education but   character development and a
well-rounded education in knowledge and skills, i.e. the
education of the individual as citizen, which alone can give
  substantive content to the public space.

The above conditions are obviously not met by parliamentary  
democracy (as it functions in the West), soviet democracy (as
it functioned in   the East) and the various fundamentalist or
semi-military regimes in the   South. All these regimes are
therefore forms of political oligarchy, in which   political
power is concentrated in the hands of various elites
(professional   politicians, party bureaucrats, priests,
military and so on). Similarly, in   the past, various forms
of oligarchies dominated the political domain, when  
emperors, kings and their courts, with or without the
co-operation of knights,   priests and others, concentrated
political power in their hands.

However, several attempts have been made in history to
institutionalise   various forms of direct democracy,
especially during revolutionary periods   (for example, the
Parisian sections of the early 1790s, the Spanish  
collectives in the civil war etc.). Most of these attempts
were short-lived   and usually did not involve the
institutionalisation of democracy as a new   form of political
regime which replaces, and not just complements, the   State.
In other cases, democratic arrangements were introduced as a
set of   procedures for local decision-making. Perhaps the
only real parallel which can   be drawn with respect to
Athenian democracy is that of some Swiss cantons   which were
governed by assemblies of the people ( Landsgemeinden ) and,  
in their day, were sovereign states.The only historical
example of an institutionalised direct democracy in which, for
almost two centuries (508/7 BC- 322/1 BC), the   state was
subsumed into the democratic form of social organisation, is
that of   Athenian democracy. Of course, Athenian   democracy
was a partial political democracy. But, what characterised it 
 as partial was not the political institutions themselves but
the very narrow   definition of full citizenship adopted by
the Athenians - a definition which   excluded large sections
of the population (women, slaves, immigrants) who, in   fact,
constituted the vast majority of the people living in Athens.

Economic Democracy

If we define political democracy as the authority of the
people ( demos )   in the political sphere - which implies the
existence of political equality   in the sense of equal
distribution of political power - then economic   democracy
could be correspondingly defined as the authority of demos in 
 the economic sphere -which implies the existence of economic
equality in the   sense of equal distribution of economic
power. And, of course, we are talking   about the demos and
not the state, because the existence of a state   means the
separation of the citizen body from the political and economic
  process. Economic democracy therefore relates to every
social system which   institutionalises the integration of
society and the economy. This means that,   ultimately, the
demos controls the economic process, within an institutional  
framework of demotic ownership of the means of production.

In a more narrow sense, economic democracy also relates to
every social system   which institutionalises the minimisation
of socio-economic differences,   particularly those arising
out of the unequal distribution of private property and the  
consequent unequal distribution of income and wealth.
Historically, it is in   this narrow sense that attempts  
were made by socialists to introduce economic democracy.
Therefore, in   contrast to the institutionalisation of
political democracy, there has never   been a corresponding
example of an institutionalised economic democracy in the  
broad sense defined above. In other words, even when socialist
attempts to   reduce the degree of inequality in the
distribution of income and wealth were   successful, they were
never associated with meaningful attempts to establish a  
system of equal distribution of economic power. This has been
the case,   despite the fact that in the type of society which
has emerged since the rise   of the market economy, there has
been a definite shift of the economy from the   private realm
into what Hannah Arendt called the "social realm", to   which
the nation-state also belongs. But, it is this shift which
makes any   talk about democracy, which does not also refer
to the question of economic power, ring hollow. In other
words,   to talk today about the equal sharing of political
power, without conditioning   it on the equal sharing of
economic power, is meaningless.

On the basis of the definition of political democracy given
earlier, the   following conditions have to be satisfied for a
society to be characterised as   an economic democracy:

1.  that there are no institutionalised economic
processes of an   oligarchic nature. This means that all
'macro' economic decisions, namely,   decisions concerning the
running of the economy as a whole (overall level of  
production, consumption and investment, amounts of work and
leisure implied,   technologies to be used, etc.) are taken by
the citizen body collectively and   without representation,
although "micro" economic decisions at the   workplace or the
household levels are taken by the individual production or  
consumption unit and

2.  that there are no institutionalised economic
structures embodying unequal economic power relations. This
implies that the means of   production and distribution are
collectively owned and controlled by the demos ,   the citizen
body directly. Any inequality of income is therefore the
result of additional voluntary work at the individual   level.
Such additional work, beyond that required by any capable
member of   society for the satisfaction of basic needs ,
allows only for additional   consumption, as no individual
accumulation of capital is possible, and any   wealth
accumulated as a result of additional work is not inherited .
Thus, demotic   ownership of the economy provides the economic
structure for   democratic ownership, whereas direct citizen
participation in economic   decisions provides the framework
for a comprehensively democratic control   process of the
economy. The community, therefore, becomes the authentic unit 
 of economic life, since economic democracy is not feasible
today unless both   the ownership and control of productive
resources are organised at the   community level. So, unlike
the   other definitions of economic democracy, the definition
given here involves   the explicit negation of economic power
and implies the authority of the   people in the economic
sphere. In this sense, economic democracy is the  
counterpart, as well as the foundation, of direct democracy
and of an   inclusive democracy in general.

A model of economic democracy, as an integral part of an
inclusive democracy,   is described in the first book-length
description of Inclusive Democracy which   was published in
1997 (see further reading).

Briefly, the dominant characteristic of this model, which
differentiates it   from similar models of centralised or
decentralised Planning, is that,   although it does not depend
on the prior abolition of scarcity, it does secure the
satisfaction of the basic   needs of all citizens, without
sacrificing freedom of choice, in a stateless,   moneyless and
marketless economy. The preconditions of economic democracy
are   defined as follows:

      community:      self-reliance
      community:       ( demotic ) ownership of productive resources
      confederal:        allocation of resource

The third condition in   particular implies that the decision
mechanism for the allocation of scarce   resources in an
inclusive democracy should be based at the confederal rather  
than the community level, i.e. at the level of the
confederation of   communities ( demoi ). This is in order to
take into account the fact   that in today's' societies many
problems cannot be solved at the community   level (energy,
environment, transportation, communication, technology
transfer   etc.). The mechanism proposed to allocate scarce
resources aims to replace   both the market mechanism and the
central planning mechanism.

The former is rejected because it can be shown that the system
of the market   economy has led, in the last two hundred years
since its establishment, to a   continuous concentration of
income and wealth at the hands of a small   percentage of the
world population   and, consequently, to a distorted
allocation of world resources. This is   because in a market
economy the crucial allocation decisions ( what to   produce,
how and for whom to produce it) are conditioned by the  
purchasing power of those income groups which can back their
demands with   money. In other words, under   conditions of
inequality, which is an inevitable outcome of the dynamic of
the   market economy, the fundamental contradiction with
respect to the market   satisfaction of human needs becomes
obvious: namely, the contradiction between   the potential
satisfaction of the basic needs of the whole   population
versus the actual satisfaction of the money-backed wants of
part of it.

The latter is rejected because it can be shown that
centralised planning,   although better than the market system
in securing employment and meeting the   basic needs of
citizens (albeit at an elementary level), not only leads to  
irrationalities (which eventually precipitated its actual
collapse) and is   ineffective in covering non-basic needs,
but it is also highly undemocratic.

 The system of allocation proposed by the Inclusive
Democracy project   aims to satisfy the twofold aim of:

      meeting the basic needs of all citizens-- which requires
      that basic macro-economic decisions are taken      
      democratically and
      securing freedom of choice-- which requires the
      individual to take important decisions affecting his/her
      own life (what work to do, what to consume etc.).

Both   the macro-economic decisions and the individual
citizens' decisions are   envisaged as being implemented
through a combination of democratic planning--   which
involves the creation of a feedback process between workplace 
 assemblies, community assemblies and the confederal
assembly-- and an   artificial 'market' which secures   real
freedom of choice, without incurring   the adverse effects
associated with real markets. In a nutshell, the allocation
of economic resources is made first, on the basis of the
citizens' collective decisions, as   expressed through the
community and confederal plans, and second, on the basis   of
the citizens' individual choices, as expressed through a
voucher system.   The general criterion for the allocation of
resources is not efficiency as it   is currently defined, in
narrow techno- economic terms. Efficiency should be  
redefined to mean effectiveness in satisfying human needs and
not just   money-backed wants. As far as the meaning of needs
is concerned, a distinction   is drawn between basic and
non-basic needs and a similar one between needs and  
'satisfiers' (the form or the means by which these needs are
satisfied).   What constitutes a need --basic or otherwise--
is determined by the citizens   themselves democratically.
Then, the level of need-satisfaction is determined  
collectively and implemented through a democratic planning
mechanism, whereas   the satisfiers for both basic and
non-basic needs are determined through the   revealed
preferences of consumers, as expressed by the use of vouchers 
 allocated to them in exchange for their 'basic' and
'non-basic' work. Basic   vouchers (BVs--allocated in exchange
for 'basic' work, i.e. the number   of hours of work required
by each citizen in a job of his/her choice so that   basic
needs are met) are used for   the satisfaction of basic
needs. These vouchers-- which are personal and   issued on
behalf of the confederation-- entitle each citizen to a given
level   of satisfaction for each particular type of need which
has been characterised   (democratically) as 'basic', but do
not specify the particular type of   satisfier, so that choice
may be secured.

Non-basic   vouchers (NBVs   - allocated in exchange for
non-basic work )are used for the   satisfaction of non-basic
needs (non-essential consumption) as well as for the  
satisfaction of basic needs beyond the level prescribed by the
confederal   assembly. NBVs, like BVs, are also personal but
are issued on behalf of each   community, rather than on
behalf of the confederation. Work by citizens over   and above
the 'basic' number of hours is voluntary and entitles them to 
 NBVs, which can be used towards the satisfaction of
non-essential needs.   'Prices' in this system, instead of
reflecting   scarcities relative to a skewed income and
wealth pattern (as in the market   economy system), function
as rationing devices to match scarcities relative to  
citizens' desires, i.e. as guides for a democratic allocation
of resources.   Therefore, prices, instead of being the cause
of rationing - as in the   market system - become the effect
of it and are assigned the role of   equating demand and
supply in an artificial "market" which secures   the
sovereignty of both consumers and producers. The 'prices'
formed in   this way, together with a complex 'index of
desirability' drawn on the   basis of citizens' preferences as
to the type of work which citizens wish to   do, determine a
'subjective' rate of remuneration for non basic work, in  
place of the 'objective' rate suggested by the labour theory
of value.

As   the above brief description of the model of economic
democracy makes clear,   the project for an inclusive
democracy refers to a future international   political economy
which transcends both the political economy of state  
socialism, as realised in the countries of the ex 'actually
existing   socialism' in Eastern Europe, and the political
economy of the market   economy, either in its mixed economy
form of the social democratic consensus,   or in its present
neo-liberal form.

Democracy in the social realm

The satisfaction of the above conditions for political and
economic democracy   would represent the re-conquering of the
political and economic realms by the   public realm-- that is,
the reconquering of a true social individuality, the  
creation of the conditions of freedom and self-determination,
both at the   political and the economic levels. However,
political and economic power are   not the only forms of power
and, therefore, political and economic democracy   do not, by
themselves, secure an inclusive democracy. In other words, an 
 inclusive democracy is inconceivable unless it extends to
the broader social realm to embrace the workplace, the  
household, the educational institution and indeed any economic
or cultural   institution which constitutes an element of this

Historically, various forms of democracy in the social realm
have been   introduced, particularly during this century,
usually in periods of   revolutionary activity. However, these
forms of democracy were not only   short-lived but seldom
extended beyond the workplace (e.g. Hungarian workers'  
councils in 1956) and the education institution (e.g. Paris
student assemblies   in 1968).

The issue today is how to extend democracy to other forms of
social   organisation, like the household, without dissolving
the private/public realm   divide. In other words, how, while
maintaining and enhancing the autonomy of   the two realms,
such institutional arrangements are adopted which introduce  
democracy to the household and the social realm in general and
-- at the same   time -enhance the   institutional
arrangements of political and economic democracy. In fact, an 
 effective democracy is inconceivable unless free time is
equally distributed   among all citizens, and this condition
can never be satisfied as long as the   present hierarchical
conditions in the household, the workplace and elsewhere  
continue. Furthermore, democracy in the social realm,
particularly in the   household, is impossible, unless such
institutional arrangements are   introduced which recognise
the character of the household as a needs-satisfier   and
integrate the care and services provided within its framework
into the general scheme of needs satisfaction.

Ecological Democracy

If we see democracy as a process of social self-institution in
which there is   no divinely or 'objectively' defined code of
human conduct there are no   guarantees that an inclusive
democracy would secure an ecological democracy in   the sense
defined above. Therefore, the replacement   of the market
economy by a new institutional framework of inclusive
democracy   constitutes only the necessary condition for a
harmonious relation   between the natural and social worlds.
The sufficient condition refers   to the citizens' level of
ecological consciousness. Still, the radical   change in the
dominant social paradigm which will follow the institution of
an   inclusive democracy, combined with the decisive role that
paedeia will   play in an environmentally-friendly
institutional framework, could reasonably   be expected to
lead to a radical change in the human attitude towards Nature.
  In other words, there are strong grounds for believing that
the relationship   between an inclusive democracy and Nature
would be much more harmonious than   could ever be achieved in
a market economy, or one based on state socialism.   The
factors supporting this view refer to all three elements of an
inclusive   democracy: political, economic and social.

At the political level, there are grounds for believing that
the creation of a   public space will in itself have a very
significant effect on reducing the   appeal of materialism.
This is because the public space will provide a new   meaning
of life to fill the existential void that the present consumer
society   creates. The realisation of what it means to be
human could reasonably be   expected to throw us back toward

Also, at the economic level, it is not accidental that,
historically, the   process of destroying the environment en
masse has coincided with the process   of marketization of the
economy. In other words, the emergence of the market   economy
and of the consequent growth economy had crucial repercussions
on the   society-Nature relationship and led to the rise of
the ideology of growth as   the dominant social paradigm.
Thus, an 'instrumentalist' view of Nature   became dominant,
in which Nature was seen as an instrument for economic  
growth, within a process of endless concentration of power. If
we assume that   only a confederal society could secure an
inclusive democracy today, it would   be reasonable to assume
further that once the market economy is replaced by a  
democratically run confederal economy, the   grow-or-die
dynamics of the former will be replaced by the new social
dynamic   of the latter: a dynamic aiming at the satisfaction
of the community needs and   not at growth per se. If the
satisfaction of community needs does not depend,   as at
present, on the continuous expansion of production to cover
the   'needs' which the market creates, and if the link
between economy and   society is restored, then there is no
reason why the present instrumentalist   view of Nature should
continue to condition human behaviour.

Furthermore, democracy in the broader social realm could also
be reasonably   expected to be environmentally-friendly. The
phasing out of patriarchal   relations in the household and
hierarchical relations in general should create   a new ethos
of non-domination which would embrace both Nature and Society.
In   other words, the creation of democratic conditions in the
social realm should   be a decisive step in the creation of
the sufficient condition for a   harmonious nature-society

Finally, the fact that the basic unit of social, economic and
political life   in a confederal democracy would be the
community might also be expected to   enhance its
environmentally-friendly character. It is reasonable to assume
-   and the evidence of the remarkable success of local
communities in   safeguarding their environments is
overwhelming - that when people rely   directly on their
natural surroundings for their livelihood, they will develop  
an intimate knowledge of those surroundings, which will
necessarily affect   positively their behaviour towards them.
However, the precondition for local   control of the
environment to be successful is that the community depends on 
 its natural surroundings for its long-term livelihood and
that it, therefore,   has a direct interest in protecting it
-another reason why an ecological   society is impossible
without economic democracy.

A new conception of citizenship

The above conditions for democracy imply a new conception of
citizenship:   economic, political, social and cultural. Thus,
political citizenship involves new political structures and
the return to the classical conception   of politics (direct
democracy). Economic citizenship involves new   economic
structures of community ownership and control of economic
resources   (economic democracy). Social citizenship involves
self-management   structures at the workplace, democracy in
the household and new welfare   structures in which all basic
needs (to be democratically determined) are   covered by
community resources, whether they are satisfied in the
household or   at the community level. Finally, cultural
citizenship involves new   democratic structures of
dissemination and control of information and culture   (mass
media, art, etc.), which allow every member of the community
to take   part in the process and at the same time develop
his/her intellectual and   cultural potential.

Although this sense of citizenship implies a sense of
political community,   which, defined geographically, is the
fundamental unit of political, economic   and social life,
still, it is assumed that this political community interlocks 
 with various other communities (cultural, professional,
ideological, etc.).   Therefore, the community and citizenship
arrangements do not rule out cultural   differences or other
differences based on gender, age, ethnicity and so on but  
simply provide the public space in which such differences can
be expressed;   furthermore, these arrangements
institutionalise various safety valves that   aim to rule out
the marginalisation of such differences by the majority. What,
  therefore, unites people in a political community, or a
confederation of   communities, is not some set of common
values, imposed by a nationalist   ideology, a religious
dogma, a mystical belief, or an 'objective'   interpretation
of natural or social 'evolution', but the democratic  
institutions and practices, which have been set up by citizens

It is obvious that the above new conception of citizenship has
very little in   common with the liberal and socialist
definitions of citizenship which are   linked to the liberal
and socialist conceptions of human rights respectively.  
Thus, for the liberals, the citizen is simply the individual
bearer of certain   freedoms and political rights recognised
by law which, supposedly, secure   equal distribution of
political power. Also, for the socialists, the citizen   is
the bearer not only of political rights and freedoms but,
also, of some   social and economic rights, whereas for
Marxists the citizenship is realised   with the collective
ownership of the means of production. The conception of  
citizenship adopted here, which could be called a democratic
conception, is based on the above definition of inclusive
democracy and presupposes   a 'participatory' conception of
active citizenship, like the one implied   by the work of
Hannah Arendt. In this conception, political activity is not a
  means to an end, but an end in itself. It is, therefore,
obvious that this   conception of citizenship is qualitatively
different from the liberal and   social-democratic conceptions
which adopt an 'instrumentalist' view of   citizenship, i.e. a
view which implies that citizenship entitles citizens with  
certain rights which they can exercise as means to the end of
individual   welfare.


A well-developed body of knowledge already exists regarding
inclusive democracy and its applications. Crucial matters
such as strategy of   transition to an inclusive democracy,
the relationship of science and   technology to democracy, the
significance of the rise of irrationalism with   respect to
the democratic project, the interrelationship between culture,
mass   media and democracy ,   and class divisions today have
all been explored in De mocracy   & Nature, The International
Journal of Inclusive Democracy (see   further reading).

Further   reading: 

Democracy & Nature, The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, 

Theoretical articles and dialogue on inclusive democracy and   related topics. 


Fotopoulos,  Takis .(1997) Towards An Inclusive Democracy:
The Crisis of the Growth Economy and   the Need for a New
Liberatory Project , (London: Cassell). The definitive  
exposition of Inclusive Democracy.


See   also, The Inclusive Democracy Network at: 

*   This article constitutes the Inclusive Democracy entry to the Routledge   
Encyclopedia of International Political Economy (ed. By Barry Jones), 2001 


If you find this material useful, you might want to check out our website
(http://cyberjournal.org) or try out our low-traffic, moderated email 
list by sending a message to:

You are encouraged to forward any material from the lists or the website,
provided it is for non-commercial use and you include the source and
this disclaimer.

Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland
Now available for review:

       Global Transformation: Why We Need It, and How We Can Get It   

TOC with URLs of chapters: 

Entire draft as one web page:

Previous version, with more American history:

    "...the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the
      suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the
      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

    Faith in ourselves - not gods, ideologies, leaders, or programs.
"Zen of Global Transformation" home page: 

QuayLargo discussion forum:

cj list archives:

newslog list archives:
Informative links: